Volume 2, Issue 8
August 1, 2021
Special Points of interest
Welcome to the August issue of the MRC newsletter. The late spring and early summer ended up quite busy with various events. As you might have seen in previous newsletters, Michigan referees have attended several out-of-state events. The end of June to the end of July also had the regional and national events for the USYS National Championship Series and USYS Presidents Cup.
We have started certifying brand new grassroots referees, too. They have to complete online training both on the U.S. Soccer website and the Michigan Referee Committee website, followed by a 1.5-hour zoom call. While they can receive a badge after completing all of these requirements, they are also expected to attend an in-person field session. If you know anyone who wants to become a referee, please check out this registration wizard.
As always, our August newsletter is full of exciting stories and information. We are featuring Mr. Matt Slovacek as the former MRC member of the month. Our regular content includes Referees of the Month and Who’s Who. We are featuring Jason Cross as the Referee of the Month, and Ken Wikle for Who’s Who. Chris Rein and Christine Lindsay wrote about their experience at out-of-state events.
Inside this issue
Michigan Referee Committee: Matt Slovacek
For the August newsletter, we also had an opportunity to interview Matt Slovacek who used to lead the referee academy effort in the state.
When and how did you become involved in the Michigan Referee Committee?
Basically, this was two-pronged: a) to scout/find talent and b) to provide a service to officials who wanted to become better at what they did. This all started at State Cup in 2004 when Carlos took me aside and said, “I have an idea…what do you think?” From there, the Michigan Referee Development Committee and its Academy model was born.
How were you involved in Michigan soccer before you were a part of the MRC?
During my college years, I played on Hillsdale’s club soccer team as a goal keeper; then later as the team manager. In the mid-1980s, I became heavily involved in AYSO soccer in both the Hillsdale and Jackson regions. I coached a U12B team and was an Area Referee in Jackson.
Sometime around 1990, I was playing in a Men’s Over-30 league in Jackson, when I got tired of getting hacked and blurted out, “Where’s the ref? I could do this myself if I had to.” A gentleman walked up to me and said there was a shortage of officials, and handed me Howard Teitelbaum’s card and wished me luck.
I continued to ref and to volunteer with the local soccer leagues and with AYSO.
What did you enjoy the most about being involved in the MRC?
The best part was having a ring-side seat to the personal and professional development of so many fine individuals. They’d struggle; and then they’d adapt and overcome. I saw them having bad days; and I saw them having fun. Working for all those officials was my pleasure; and there was for me, a tremendous amount of joy watching them become better at doing what they loved…on and off the field.
Do you still remain active in refereeing?
Unfortunately, a nasty skiing accident in 2010 ultimately led to my retirement as a referee. At the end of 2011, I resigned my administrative duties on the MRC and focused on my growing family.
What is your best memory of being a referee?
There wasn’t really just one; but many. Here are a few as I recall them. Please forgive the random tangents of my thoughts here:
- The friendships and the war stories.
- Joining the teams in the clubhouse after the matches.
- Officiating matches with so many diverse (and opposing) cultures
- Making the game more exciting.
- State Cup Memory: “Hey Slovacek! You run pretty good for a fat guy!”
- The family we became.
- A player who shook my hand and said “That was a fun game; thanks.”
What is your best memory of being on the MRC?
This is the same as the question above; just a bit different:
- Oj! The nicknames that we gave one another.
- Traveling to all the state and national tournaments.
- Interacting and networking with some of the most influential individuals at US Soccer.
- Watching a Michigan Crew officiate the U19 Super Y semi-final; televised on the Fox Soccer Channel.
- State Clinic Meeting: “You’ve lost a ton of weight! A ton!”
- Witnessing a Michigan Referee walk onto the field under the FIFA Anthem.
Kidding aside though: Over my tenure on the MRC, I learned a great deal from the officials we worked with. They continue to be my best memory; and to this day, I remain grateful to each and every one of them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring referees?
Just ref. Be humble and allow the Game teach you its lessons.
Just ref. Performances are for entertainers; and politics are for politicians.
Just ref. Learn to Give the Game what it needs and the players what they want.
Just ref. Have fun.
Thank you, Matt.
Advanced Referee Mentor Program
Since April 2021, eight referee coaches and mentors (Ron Grobbel, Sue Grobbel, Tim Deters, Nichole Kramer-Kiuchi, Jeff Dornseifer, David Esshaki, Jim DeBrabander, and Francisco Villarruel) have met online once a month to improve their performance observation skills. These mentors and coaches currently work on the highest level games in the state including professional and semiprofessional games. The sessions are led by Carlos Folino and Yuya Kiuchi.
The focus areas for referees, for example, are: match control, interaction with all participants, game management, teamwork, positioning, and movement. Each session focuses on one of these areas. Yuya usually gives a 30-min presentation on the topic of the month with examples. The group discusses what some best practices are, what common mistakes may exist, etc. Then they are given a recording of a semi-professional match in Michigan that they have to watch and record incidents related to the topic of the month. For example, if the topic is about game management, they have to record all the instances when game management happened or should have happened, including injury management and restart management. They also have to score the referee’s performance on each incident.
In the next meeting, all the members discuss what they observed and how they scored. They learn from each other as well as from Carlos and Yuya. This practice helps standardize the evaluation and feedback given to referees working on the highest-level games in the state.
One of the key lessons of the program is dissecting an incident. A simple foul call may have multiple layers. For example, a correct recognition of a foul may not have been accompanied by a correct recognition of the need to issue a yellow card for a reckless challenge. It may be partly because of poor positioning, caused by poor movement (e.g. poor recognition of a breakdown of an attack). But the referee may talk effectively to players to avoid significant dissent. This means that an incident that happened in less than a second could be evaluated from several different angles. Participating mentors and coaches are improving their skills in recognizing these details so that they can provide better advice to referees.
USYS Presidents Cup Regional Event
Thirteen Michigan Referees (Meghan Brasseur, Brendan Dunavant, Amber Festian, Jeren Ghoujeghi, Justin Janulewicz, Kaitlin Girbach, Kaitlin Keck, Olivia Kositz, Christine Lindsay, Mark Lorkowski, Kerry Martenis, Jason Cross, and Owen Smiley) went to West Chester, OH, for the 2021 Midwest Regional Presidents Cup. We were joined by Mentors and Coaches Yuya Kiuchi, Carlos Folino, Ron Grobbel, Sue Grobbel, and Jeff Dornseifer.
President’s Cup was a great experience overall. We had the opportunity to meet and work with referees from several states around the region. I was even able to get feedback from a PRO and a National Coach on a couple of my games. There were some good points for me to think about and incorporate into future games.
On the second day severe storms and heavy rain came through, the event was paused, and our delegation managed to fit all 13 referees in a mini-van and a pickup truck to make for some great bonding while the storms passed. Then, due to the rains and field conditions, the third day of group play ended up being KFTPM for nearly every game. It was a little disappointing to miss out on those full games, but we tried to make the best of it.
Nine Michigan referees including myself had the honor of being selected to run a semifinal game. It was very cool to be recognized and have the opportunity to work such a high stakes game. Further, seven referees from our delegation were selected for finals. On the last day, everyone who was not running semifinals or finals came out to watch the last games and support the Michigan Referees.
Off the field, the group was able to join each night’s virtual referee meeting together in one room which was a lot of fun and good help to the learning experience. Every time we cheered for a speaker, the presenters could hear the Michigan delegation from down the hall of the hotel.
Check Out Our Blog
As was mentioned in the last newsletter, we have an instructional blog. We have so far covered topics including positioning, tactical fouls, delaying restart, and assistant referee movement and focus. Each entry is very short accompanied by a short video. Please check it out frequently as a new entry is added several times a month.
To access the page, check out this link.
What Motivates you in Life?
One of the most powerful and impactful human experiences in this life journey is the opportunity to come together with other committed individuals to learn, develop, achieve, and execute a common goal or purpose. The rewards of which are heightened as one becomes more proficient and professional in their craft.
Each time we are assigned to a match as officials, we are rewarded with just such an opportunity. Are you consistently leveraging this opportunity to benefit yourself, your crew, the players, the coaches, and hey, let’s not forget the spectators?
The US Youth Soccer National Championship Series, according to its website, is “the country’s most prestigious national youth soccer tournament. It affords approximately 185,000 players on over 10,000 teams from US Youth Soccer State Associations the opportunity to showcase their soccer skills against the best competition in the nation while emphasizing teamwork, discipline, and fair play.” For more information, please reference its website.
The Midwest Region comprises 13 states, and through performance-based results in local matches, officials gain the opportunity to officiate in their States Cup tournament. From there, each state is charged with selecting officials to represent the state at the regional event. This ultimately leads to the opportunity to be chosen by USYS and Regional refereeing committees to represent the Midwest and your state at Nationals.
St. Louis, Missouri, hosted the Midwest Regional Championship event this past month from June 24th through June 30th. Michigan had the distinct pleasure of sending sixteen officials and four mentors/coaches. It was my great pleasure to be selected for a second opportunity to officiate at the Midwest Regional Championship level this year. A rather humbling while simultaneously exciting experience. Humbling in the respect that Michigan currently has over 3000 highly skilled referees in our system, so I see it as a great honor to have been selected. The opportunity to add value with some of the most skilled officials in some of the highest-level youth games in the nation is truly thrilling for me.
In addition, I appreciate the opportunity for professional growth as a highly knowledgeable and skilled mentor generously supports each regional game. Many of these mentors are either current or previous National, Pro, FIFA officials or referee coaches. After every match, a detailed debrief incorporating a proactive training feedback session is conducted. An emphasis is placed on areas that each official is excelling at while encouraging thought-provoking self-reflection on areas that can be finessed. Personally, this is one of the most rewarding benefits I receive from attending these events.
Do you desire to push yourself and your craft to the next level? Do you want to add value to some of the top youth games in the nation?
Applications and interviews are held at your convenience whenever you hit the accept button for a match and every time you step on the pitch. Does there need to be a National, Pro, FIFA representative present to assist each other on the crew with highlighting strengths and asking thought-provoking questions to improve collectively?
I challenge you to take this short questionnaire and assist your fellow referees by providing some examples of how you receive and provide feedback. Individuals providing examples will be placed in a drawing to win an MRC branded face mask, MRC coin, and a gift certificate to Official Sports. Stay tuned as we will compile some of your best examples to break the ice while opening communication channels and publish them in next month’s newsletter.
Who will be at the next State Cup? Who will be selected to attend the next Midwest Regional Championships? Maybe me… Maybe you… Perhaps that crew member that you assisted and took the time to mentor.
Thank you to the entire MRC board for your tireless and continued support of all of us. A special thank you to Carlos Folino, Yuya Kiuchi, Ron and Sue Grobbel; with your leadership, commitment, and dedication, Michigan has one of the nation’s top state Refereeing associations.
Say Hello to Lacie!
What is your name? How old are you? And what breed are you?
Lacie, I am 1 year old, I am a Springer Spaniel.
How long have you known Ryan? How did you meet him?
I have known Ryan Since the day I was born.
Do you ever go watch him referee?
No, he referees to far away from home.
What do you do while Ryan is reffing if you don’t go along?
Wait for him to come back.
Do you help him pack him ref bag?
I am normally asleep when he packs.
Do you ever help Ryan train for reffing?
He will sometimes take me to his track workouts and go on up to 8 mile runs with him.
Have you ever chewed up any ref gear of his?
He hides his referee gear from me.
Can you do a trick? If so, what can you do?
I can speak, shake, lay down, roll over, stay, and balance a treat on my nose, and hug.
What is your favorite toy?
What is your favorite treat?
What is your favorite game to play with Ryan?
Chase Ryan while he runs.
What do you enjoy about Ryan being a referee?
I do not enjoy anything as it is what keeps him away from being at home with me.
What don’t you enjoy about Ryan being a referee?
I don’t enjoy him being gone for the weekend.
What is something unique that you do?
I can jump very high, I can get treats that Ryan is holding up 5+ feet in the air.
What do you like to do when Ryan is not reffing?
I go on runs with Ryan, we will take leashless walks through the woods to the beach while he takes pictures of me, he will put a light up collar on me and we will go on leashless walks through the woods in the dark.
Referee of the Month: Jason Cross
My refereeing journey began in 2005 when I was 12 after I saw a classmate referee a game. After watching my friend, I decided I wanted to referee so the next year I took a 2-day referee course to become a “recreational” referee. I started out doing games in a local rec league on the Central Coast of California. After that first year, I fell in love with refereeing and wanted to keep getting better in order to do higher level games.
A year later, I took the class to become a Grade 8 referee and started to work State Cup, adult, and higher-level club games. Over the next couple of years, I would continue to improve my skills as a referee. I eventually joined the Cal-South’s Referee Mentor Program which took advanced youth referees and gave them mentoring opportunities at state cup and high-level tournaments. This program provided invaluable training from many current and former FIFA and national referees. This program also gave me the opportunity to travel all over Southern California to attend high level tournaments where I received referee coaching from high level officials. This mentor program shaped me not only as a referee but also as a young man; helping me become a great referee but also teaching me many life lessons along the way.
Unfortunately, life would come knocking and I had to stop refereeing shortly after getting my state/ regional badge in 2012. I would not referee much again until I moved to Michigan. In 2019, I decided I wanted to referee again. I took a Grade 8 referee class and began doing games in the Ann Arbor area. Over the last couple of years, I have worked hard to be able to become a regional referee again. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time refereeing in MI. I have been given the opportunity to attend state cup the last few years, meeting many great referees in the state along the way. I have also had the opportunity to represent MI at out of state events such as DA showcases, National League showcases, and this year I was invited by Michigan to attend the Midwest Presidents Cup where I was selected to represent the Midwest Region at National Presidents Cup. I also attended the Midwest Regionals this summer where I was selected to referee a semifinal match.
My goal as a referee is to become a national referee here in MI. I have received so much support over the last few years so that I can progress as a referee. I hope one day I can give back by becoming a referee mentor/coach to help other aspiring officials better themselves in MI.
USYS Presidents Cup National Event
Presidents Cup Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, was an experience of a lifetime in my referee career so far. To be able to do what I love and spend it with close friends from my state, my region, and the new friends I made from the other regions made the experience all the better. To start from the beginning, I would have to start at the Presidents Cup Midwest Regional event in Ohio.
This event being the first of the regional events I was invited to attend for the summer of 2021, I felt very fresh not only physically but also mentally. The weather in Ohio during Presidents Cup Regionals for sure did not cooperate with the games, but still felt like I was able to perform my best for these games. I was honored with getting to be the referee for U17 boys and U18/19 girls on the first two days of group play, and felt amazing during it. The third day was cancelled by weather, and got to experience an interesting, modified kicks from the mark then. Semifinals and finals were then collapsed to one day with shortened halves due to more inclement weather approaching, and was extremely honored to be the referee for the U17 boys Presidents Cup Regional final. The next day having our meeting over zoom, and the moment to see my name pop up as the selection for Presidents Cup Nationals felt like putting a check mark next to one of my goals, and all the support from my fellow referees and referee coaches made it all the better. Two days after this event, I was off to Midwest Regionals. With a week break after Regionals, would be heading to Presidents Cup Nationals.
If I could describe the best moments from the Presidents Cup Nationals in a couple words, I would have to say that being able to meet so many new friends and become even better friends with the people I already knew was such an amazing feeling. Being able to work with these referees during a national event made it all the better. From all the games I was able to officiate, being the center referee on U16 boys and U18 girls, and assistant referee on the U16 boys final, was able to go in with so much confidence and being able to receive amazing feedback from national level referee coaches to take back home and share with other referees, as well as to improve my own game to pursue getting to the next level, has made me enjoy being a referee more and more.
It was a big honor to be selected to go to Presidents Cup Nationals, and I thank everyone in the Michigan Referee Committee, and all the referee and referee coaches I have been able to work with, talk to, and be able to call them my friends, for all the support. I personally strive to continue to grind to get to the very top as a referee, and I can say that this event has for sure gotten me one step closer to my overall goal as referee.
What is Your Call?
In the July newsletter, you were given a clip of a challenge and a possible disciplinary action. The survey asked you to identify if a foul existed, and if it did, by whom with possibly with what disciplinary action.
The July video was this.
This month, out of three people who responded, one person correctly identified this as a reckless challenge. Notice the distance the green player had to travel to make this challenge. It created medium-level force and speed (= intensity). His right foot/leg also makes contact with the opponent in red in his shin. Therefore, this foul is more than a careless foul.
The video for the month can be found here.
You can submit your answer here.
Who’s Who in Michigan: Ken Wikle
How did you get started with Soccer?
After getting out of the Navy in 1972 in California, I was attending junior college to get a degree in business. I took a physical education course on soccer. At one of the last classes the local AYSO regional director showed up to recruit coaches. I volunteered to assist him coaching a 10-12-year old boys’ team. I went on to coach my own team and began to volunteer as a referee. My sons were still toddlers and too young to play at this time. I helped the local AYSO region in Alta Loma, Cucamonga and Etiwanda as field manager, referee and coach for several years. I also began playing on Sundays.
How did you end up in Michigan?
I moved my family to Michigan in 1977 so my wife and I could be closer to our family. I went to work for my father-in-law’s business and located in Clarkston.
How did you become involved in soccer here?
My nieces played in the Troy Youth Soccer League. My sister-in-law put me in touch with the “head” referee, Chuck Matthews to get involved in officiating. I took my first USSF referee test at his kitchen table and became a certified referee. I drove from Clarkston to Troy on weekends to referee youth soccer games.
What are some of your accomplishments in soccer?
I refereed in Troy and began coaching my boys in Parks and Rec youth soccer in Clarkston. I took the F and D coaching classes while I continued coaching their teams through U16. I was elected the first President of the Waterford Youth Soccer League Coaches organization. In 1983 I certified as a USSF referee instructor and began teaching the 16-hour beginning referee course receiving assignments all over the Detroit area. I took the USSF test for the state referee license and began doing adult amateur games on Sundays, officiating many of the ethnic teams as a member of the Detroit Metropolitan Referees Association. Other milestones in officiating include participated in the now defunct Wolverine Soccer Tournament, refereed in three MSYSA State Cup Finals, original member of the Troy Soccer Referees Association, became an assessor in 1991, joined NISOA and officiated NCAA soccer, began writing soccer articles for REFEREE magazine and was a regular contributor for years, officiating PDL games, refereed high school games, and helped found an MHSAA referees association. After retiring from business in 2008, I served as Club Administrator and referee assignor for the Michigan Impact Soccer Club. I recently certified as a referee mentor and I continue to referee youth soccer.
What are some of your fondest memories? What has given me the most satisfaction through my refereeing career is watching young people grow up playing or refereeing and see them mature into adults, start families and having children of their own who play or referee. I regularly run into parents, referees and players who recognize me from years ago, greet me happily and say “You did my games back when….” I mentored or taught some referees who are now adults and still officiate. Occasionally I run into another old referee or player that is from my era and reminisce about the old days. Many of my fellow referees have retired from officiating. A few of them have passed away. Some of them have continued on as assignors or mentors. I intend to stay involved as long as I am able and continue to contribute to the game.
Let your Whistle Speak for You
One method of controlling a game effectively is to learn the technique of using your whistle to “speak to the players.” Using an electronic whistle and wearing a face mask during the pandemic reminded me that I missed using my Acme Thunderer with a cork pea. The electronic whistle was not loud enough to be heard from a distance. I couldn’t express my dissatisfaction with a nasty foul by blowing my whistle loudly and angrily. The electronic whistle had one sound and it seemed like a peep instead of an earsplitting blast.
Using your whistle to control a game is a skill that is usually not taught in new referee training. It is something that can be taught and learned in field training sessions and reinforced in field observations. I will discuss some of the aspects of whistle use.
Whistle volume: One of the biggest criticisms of new referees is that they don’t blow their whistles loud enough. A weak whistle creates problems in the game. Not all of the players stop when the referee uses a weak whistle blast. Some players hear it and some don’t, creating a confusing situation. A weak whistle creates a decisiveness issue. Does the referee really mean it or not? A referee is there to take charge of the game. Any appearance of a lack of clear decision making will irritate the players, coaches and spectators and eventually lead to dissent. This is easily fixed by blowing the whistle loud enough to be heard by everyone on the field.
Proper use of the whistle for starting and stopping the game: Kick offs and penalty kicks must have a clear whistle signal for restarting. For a kick off the players must all be in their own half (except for the kicker), opponents outside the center circle and any substitutions completed. The referee must have recorded the goal in his game record. In the case of a penalty kick, all players must be positioned in accordance with the Law 14, the kicker identified and the goalkeeper ready. A penalty kick without a whistle signal is not properly taken and must be retaken.
A ceremonial free kick where the referee has enforced the 10-yard distance needs a whistle. The referee should notify the kicking team that his whistle is required.
Substitutions: the referee must notify the teams by his whistle that a delay in the restart will take place until the substitution is complete. The referee must signal for play to recommence after a substitution. Players, especially in youth games, need to learn this routine and referees need to enforce it. If the referee requires this, players will get into a rhythm and will not be restarting play by themselves and having to restart again because the referee has not authorized play to continue.
No whistle required: As important as good whistle technique is to game control there are times that restarts do not require the use of the referees whistle. Players learn this as they gain experience and referees need to observe disciplined use of the whistle to provide good game flow. No whistle is required for clear throw-ins, goal kicks, corner kicks, free kicks without encroachment by opponents, and clear goals.
The following whistle sounds should be in a referee’s repertoire and are my recommendations.
Tweet: A quick whistle of medium volume to signify a throw-in when the ball is out of play in non-critical tactical situations. It can also be used for obvious goal kicks and corner kicks where players need to be stopped from playing the ball but the call is obvious. This whistle can be used to restart play after a substitution.
Tweet-tweet: Used to signify a substitution when the ball is out of play and substitutes are waiting at the half line. This could be called an administrative whistle.
Strong loud whistle: To call a foul during play, signal for the taking of a penalty kick and kick off. This whistle also stops play when players don’t realize the ball has crossed a boundary line called by an AR’s flag.
Loud Long Angry Blast: This is used to signal a hard foul, a tactical foul and possibly a foul for which the referee will be issuing a yellow or red card. It can also be used for a foul for which a penalty kick will be awarded. When the referee is using a whistle with a pea in it “rolling the whistle” also lends drama to the sound and sends a message that this action by the player is going to result in a more serious sanction. Using a pea less whistle does not allow rolling the whistle but can be made up for by a long piercing blast.
Two long loud blasts: This ends the first half.
Three long loud blasts: This ends the game.
Advantageous use of your whistle during a match can help game control. Consistent whistle use by referees should promote good communication and better game flow hence improving enjoyment for everyone.
Michigan Referee Committee
State Referee Administrator (SRA): Carlos Folino
State Referee Chairman (SRC): James Wheeler
State Youth Referee Administrator (SYRA): Ronald Grobbel
State Director of Referee Development (SDRD): Yuya Kiuchi
State Director of Assignors (SDoA): John Corbett
State Director of Futsal (SDF): Richard Gilbert
Email addresses are the title in parenthesis plus @michiganrefs.org
Please reach out to us!
If you have any referee-related stories to share or someone you think should be featured in this newsletter, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you know anyone who would like to become a referee, we offer numerous grassroots referee classes, as well. You can find relevant information here.
Contact one of us on the Michigan Referee Committee if you have any questions.